Tuesday, August 6, 2002 - Athlete Perspective
The Thin Red Line

By: Charles Nadeau

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Following Salt Lake City winter Olympic games, one word remains in the mind of cross-country skiers all over the world: doping. However, cheating is not a recent issue for elite athletes who are desperate to win. Let me share wth you an interesting discussion I had few days ago with a great Olympic athlete and also a great woman of our time.

I was hiking near Lake O’Hara when I first met her. On the way up to Abbot pass, I passed two funny people walking with a rope where I thought even my grandmother could walk easily. What I didn’t know is that one of them was in fact almost as old as grandma. Her name is Vera Matrasova. Born in Czech Republic, she became one of the best track and field athletes of her country and finished sixth in the shot put event at 1960 Olympic games in Rome. You can imagine my surprise when she told me she was an Olympic athlete and also a close friend of one of the best runners of all time, Emil Zatopek. However, I was about to discover she was more than a former elite athlete. Since the sixties, she has continued her commitment to sport as chairperson of the Czech Olympic movement. For almost forty years she has worked to develop equality and justice in sport, conclusion: not much…

Doping as well as other forms of cheating are incredibly complex to manage for sport authorities for many reasons. For starters, anti-doping science remains a reaction science and will always try to close an impossible gap between themselves and the powerful and lucrative business of doping. Secondly, the ultimate challenge of every federation is to draw the line between honesty and cheating. Attempting to draw this thin red line will remain a challenge for generations to come considering the global problem: where does cheating begin? Even leaders of the world anti-doping movement like Canada should be concerned to find where science and technology interfere with ethic.

As a ‘young’ athlete, I decided to sit down and draw my own line of ethics. This simple reflection helps me to stay focused on my goals whatever the daily doping scandal. According to our values, we all have an own vision about ethics in sport. The only way to achieve our dreams is to consider this vision throughout our athletic career, day after day, year after year. Let be honest here, I know dope is out there… So what? Life goes further than an Olympic medal, upon every athlete there is a Bigger Picture.

I never win any big races but unlike some superstar athletes, I still can see truth when I look at myself in the mirror. By the way, back in 1960, gender tests were still not really accurate even during international meetings. Vera told me probably no more than two women beat her in Rome… Not many people know she was probably third and not sixth this day, but she knows. There are days like that when it is good to be ourselves…

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